A question for readers and cat lovers

Fed up with euthanizing tens of thousands of perfectly healthy adult cats each year, animal shelters in other parts of the country have begun waiving adoption fees altogether for adult cats. The experiments have had the intended impact: adoptions...

Fed up with euthanizing tens of thousands of perfectly healthy adult cats each year, animal shelters in other parts of the country have begun waiving adoption fees altogether for adult cats. The experiments have had the intended impact: adoptions skyrocket and euthanisia plummets.

But they continue to prompt angry objections from some cat lovers.

Jill Gross, director of Home Alone Feline Rescue in northern Virginia, had this to say about the no-fee cat adoption promotion currently offered by the D.C.-based Washington Animal Rescue League: "I find the 'no adoption fee' promotions disturbing ... [cats] are not material goods to be discounted when there is an oversupply or less demand."

New research to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science appears to contradict the concern that no-fee adoptions lead people to devalue cats. Authored by Dr. Emily Weiss and Shannon Gramann of the ASPCA, the study examined the results of no-fee cat adoption campaigns conducted by six very different humane societies and found that no-fee adoptions did not result in devaluation of adopted cats (or poorer long-term outcomes) and probably reduced the number of cats that had to be euthanized.

This research and the associated controversy have urgent implications here in the Northland, where more than 1,500 mostly healthy cats per year have to be euthanized by shelters within 90 miles of Duluth.


Animal Allies Humane Society has not experimented with no-fee adoptions but has, at times, drastically reduced cat adoption fees, and our experience echoes the findings of the ASPCA study. In both 2007 and 2008, Animal Allies offered the following promotion: adopt one adult cat at the normal fee and the adoption fee for a second adult cat will be waived. As in the programs studied by ASPCA, adoptions increased dramatically, euthanasia decreased and follow-up analysis of adoption outcomes revealed no increase in the rate of returned animals. But we faced heated criticism that our "two for one" promotion devalued living creatures with language that felt uncomfortably commercial.

I share the discomfort with the commercial tone of adoption promotions, but, given the apparently unique power of aggressive adoption fee discounts to increase adoptions, it would seem that the greater good is in swallowing our distaste and focusing on the many cats in happy forever homes who would have otherwise suffered a premature and anonymous death in a shelter.

Indeed, all of the evidence on adoption promotions seems to point to the same conclusion: The dollar amount of pet adoption fees has no relationship whatsoever to the intrinsic value of pets or the treatment of pets by adopters.

In fact, shelters that "give away" adult cats do so not because they devalue adult cats; on the contrary, those shelters do so because they feel strongly that the cats are precious living creatures that deserve a chance at a good home and a full life.

Fee waivers are an expression of high regard for cats, not disregard. Importantly, the shelters do not waive their normal adoption standards and interview processes.

So, as Duluth enters the worst of the annual flood of homeless cats into area shelters, and the city of Duluth again faces the terrible necessity to euthanize healthy cats, we want and need your guidance: Should Animal Allies conduct a no-fee cat adoption promotion?

In the meantime, Animal Allies is reducing adoption fees for all adult cats (one year and older) from the normal $75-to-$90 fee down to $25 ($15 for Animal Allies members). The reduction is in effect through Sept. 15.

Each cat receives the following medical services prior to adoption: veterinary exam, spay-neuter surgery, microchip and microchip registration, immunization and booster shots, rabies vaccination, parasite testing and treatment, testing for leukemia and FIV. On your own, you might pay $425 for these services. Our adoption counselors will guide you through the normal process of find a cat who will be a good fit for you.


If you are interested in adopting, go to to view all of the cats in our adoption program or come to the shelter. The shelter is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Please e-mail your feedback to Jim Filby Williams at .

Writer Jim Filby Williams is executive director of Animal Allies Humane Society.

For more, call 722-1269 or visit .

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